Now that he’s a farmer, Toban Dyck starts acting like one —making his own inventions. Learn how he made his own cross-country ski trail groomer
The best way to get rid of spilled oil on your workshop floor is by sprinkling gravel or sand over the area, waiting for an hour, then sweeping it up. There. Done. The workshop is ready for spring. All the debris, fluids, clumps of snow and other relics of winter have been swept away.
Our shop is heated, large enough for a combine and maybe a car or half-ton truck. It’s heated by my father’s invention: A waste-oil burner. He sells the plans online. In its heyday the contraption earned him a trip to New York over patent talks, and some cash through the sale of plans online. I swept around it. I was just a boy when it came to life. It left me with the desire to invent.
Farmers are brilliant inventors. They have to solve their own problems and find solutions for big troubles in short amounts of time. I don’t yet count myself among you, but I am slowly learning the ropes. And I have been dabbling with invention this winter.
Our property is gorgeous. A biased opinion, sure, but it really is. We have a mix of open space and forest, separated by a dyke that snakes its way through our yard. The Dead Horse Creek cuts the bush in two, and on either side, in a clearing, are man-made ponds. It’s picturesque. And, perfect for cross-country skiing, if you’re into that. I highly recommend it. It’s easy to do, refreshing. And, if you follow my directions, you can be the envy of the neighbourhood by making your own groomer.
I can’t take full credit for the design of my groomer. It’s a blend of my own modifications and some plans I found online. My reason for doing it? I was determined to build it for cheaper than the near-$1,000 price tag on most trail groomers. And I wanted to be able to ski through our yard.
You will need a snowmobile to drag this apparatus around. There may not be much skiing left this season, but cut this article out and surprise your family for next winter.
So, let’s begin: Head on down to the lumberyard. Pick up two 10-foot 2x10s; one sheet of 1/2-inch plywood; a 12-foot 2×4; about five feet of steel, square tubing (1/2-inch); an eight-foot 2×3; a 1/2-inch by six-inch bolt and nut, and a bunch of three-inch deck screws and some shorter ones as well.
Cut a 45-degree angle in both 2x10s, ensuring the long end to the base of board is four feet.
Take the plywood and cut it 40 inches wide by the length of shortest side of recently cut 2x10s. Take deck screws, and screw the shortest side of 2x10s to the outside, length-side of plywood, ensuring the edge of the 2×10 is flush with plywood edge (screw from the bottom).
Next, cover the angled area of 2×10 to give the groomer its sled shape. Measure the width (40 inches) and the height (to the top edge of 2×10) and cut plywood to fit. Fasten with three-inch screws (or shorter) to ends of 2x10s.
How the two pieces of plywood meet and base of angle is not too important. There is a wedge opening in mine, and it hasn’t given me any problems.
Now, cut a piece of plywood for back of groomer and fasten it with screws. This will be 40 inches by the height from bottom of plywood to top of the 2×10. Measure from inside 2×10 to inside 2×10 and cut a length of 2×4 to match. Then, fasten it down along back width of plywood. This will give you something to fasten the back plywood plate to along the width.
Now the guts
Cut a 2×10 the same width as the recently-cut 2×4 (from inside edge to inside edge). From the bottom of groomer, screw the 2×10 on its edge across width of groomer, so the edge of 2×10 is flush with the seam between flat bottom and the 45° angle. Next, cut four 45° wedges (triangles) out of the 2×10 to give support to front of groomer. Fasten two of the wedges with deck screws from the bottom of groomer (front side) and back side of the 2×10.
Flip the groomer over. It’s time to make the skis. Cut two, 26-inch lengths of 2×3, cutting an arrow shape into one end of each. There is personal preference here, but I spaced the two ski-making boards about nine inches apart, centre to centre, ensuring the 4-1/2 inch mark between them is the exact centre of the width of groomer. Fasten skis down with the longer deck screws.
Cut two lengths of 2×4, one from inside edge of 2×4 across back width to the front 2×10 (fasten along base of inside of groomer) and the other from back plywood to 2×10 (fasten so it’s flush with top of groomer). Both boards should run front to back along the centre of the groomer’s width.
Next, cut two 18-inch lengths of 2×10. Take the two extra wedges you cut earlier and fasten the boards to them. When they’re done the 2x10s should look like book ends. Now, place them upright, facing each other broadside to broadside, on either side of the centre 2x4s. Make sure the boards front-facing edge is between six to eight inches back from front 2×10. Fasten them down, from bottom of groomer and inside.
Now, cut a 1/2-inch hole five inches from top of book-end-like 2x10s.
Last steps, I promise: Cut the same-sized hole in the end of the steel tubing; drive a bolt through the 2×10, the steel tubing and the other 2×10.
The only thing remaining is the end that hooks on to your sled. This is where I leave you to your own devices. I welded a three-inch steel flange to end of tubing, cut a hole in it and used a c-clamp to attach it to my sled’s draw bar.
Last but not least, add about 100 pounds or so to groomer and make some trails! †